How to Successfully Exhibit at a Trade Show

Trade shows are a substantial investment for companies; requiring time, money and additional resources.

While trade show success is typically measured in lead generation and estimated return on investment, a carefully executed show represents a unique opportunity for companies to build long-lasting relationships.

Following on from the Express team’s appearance at this year’s Facilities Show in June, Area Manager Rachel Whitford offers key insights for businesses navigating their own way through a trade show.


First steps

In the age of digital marketing, it’s easy to overlook the potential of trade shows. However, they offer a unique opportunity to build brand recognition and communicate face-to-face with existing customers and potential leads.

Each trade show is different, and you should research the market to make sure you pick the right show for your business, which will allow you to reach your marketing or business goals, be it brand awareness, lead generation and more.

Successful trade show exhibits require a significant investment, so confirm your budget with investors before choosing your event. The majority of exhibitors report spending between 5-10% of their budget on trade shows.

Trade show quality is often defined by the quality of attendees. However, location, number of attendees and the industries the trade show targets should also be considered.

Consider your branding and corporate identity and, more importantly, how you convey this whilst exhibiting. You should always keep your company colours and logos on marketing collateral and stands, as these are eye-catching, memorable and help set you apart from the crowd.

A trade show provides the opportunity to demonstrate your company’s products and expertise. If you have knowledgeable staff members for different topics, schedule talks at your stand throughout the day to drive footfall. It’s an opportunity to show you’re experts in your field and generate targeted leads who’ve chosen to visit your stand.

A recent report suggests 43% of marketers spend between £500 and £2000 on their display stands. This cost will vary depending on the size of stand and whether it’s custom-built, but those looking to purely drive brand awareness may be willing to invest more on their stand.


Preparing for success

Planning makes the difference between a successful show and one that fails to meet targets and fit within budgets. Hotel rooms and flights can sell out around a popular trade show, so plan these logistical decisions well in advance. Maintain regular internal communication so your team is up to date on your event strategy.

Develop a plan of action in advance to ensure you achieve your exhibiting goals and maximise ROI. This may include selecting which team members will attend and allocating an event budget.

Trade shows provide a positive learning opportunity for your employees, with 57% of respondents in a recent survey claiming their staff’s sales skills benefited from representing an employer. They can also increase loyalty among staff and strengthen their connection to the company.

Packing for your trade show shouldn’t be an afterthought, and essential items include:

  • Press release handouts on new product or service launches
  • Displays and promotional signage for tables, till points or shelving units
  • Marketing packs for prospective leads
  • GDPR-approved ways to capture data
  • Itinerary of events and a list of useful contacts
  • Power strip and extension cords

If your trade show is an opportunity to make sales, then make sure to take any necessary sale and receipt forms and machines.


Initial communications

Ensure key clients and industry contacts are aware of your brand’s presence at a show before attending the event with pre-show marketing.

Use social media plus traditional communications to raise awareness before the event to generate quality traffic to your stand. LinkedIn and Twitter are appropriate channels for promoting B2B activity.

Send tailored email invites to clients you want to attract at your trade show, but also consider sending marketing material via post as an effective way to reach out in a more personal way.

Your chosen show may even have a promotional team, who you can work with to maximise exposure of your business before the event and on the day.


Direct marketing

76% of attendees arrive at trade shows with an agenda of exhibitors they plan to visit, so use direct marketing to make sure you’re on their list.

Incentives like exclusive offers to trade show attendees and running competitions can encourage greater footfall to your booth and should be promoted in advance. You can then use your platform to announce new products or services being launched at the event.

Existing business relationships should not be overlooked in your marketing strategy either. Use eCRM (electronic customer relationship management) as a tool for collecting data on existing customers – like buying habits – so you can tailor your communications accordingly.


Turn on the charm

Trade show attendees have buying authority, so make the most of the opportunity to meet them in person and grow relationships.

Focus on the ‘soft sell’ by making a good impression at each stage of your interaction and get to know your visitors by asking and answering questions. This will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and understand their buying intent. Talk business but allow visitors to relax and enjoy the experience of your booth.

Attract attention by offering refreshments or places to sit. Finally, send interested contacts on their way with a branded promotional item, so they’ll remember you.


Following up

It’s important to follow up with attendees post-show with punctual, personalised communication.

Prioritise leads by how ‘hot’ they are. A phone call is the most direct way to reach out and allows you to begin growing relationships with contacts. Nurturing a select few relationships can be more beneficial and time-effective over following-up with every attendee.

It’s also worth following up with ’cold’ leads, as it’ll enable you to gain an understanding of their business needs so you can serve as a resource to them in the future. Email is the best way to contact this tier of lead, with Display Wizard claiming 81% of exhibitors use email to follow up their trade show leads.

Lastly, you’ll want to measure the success of your trade show to drive better decision-making in the future.

How you quantify trade show success depends on the objectives you set during the planning stage. If your goal was to generate sales, Return on Investment (ROI) will be the figures you’ll want to review. If brand awareness was your goal, analyse metrics like social media followers and website traffic.

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